Teachers using pens and paper in the classroom “not fair” to students, Microsoft official says

Microsoft Summit 2015 coming to Vancouver

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      Pens and paper have no place in the modern classroom. And chalkboards? They should be banished from our schools too.

      That’s what Lia De Cicco Remu, director of Partners in Learning at Microsoft Canada, told the Georgia Straight ahead of the Microsoft Summit 2015 in Vancouver, which is set to be attended by around 200 teachers.

      “When was the last time you used a piece of chalk to express yourself?” De Cicco Remu, a former teacher, asked by phone from Toronto. “Kids don’t express themselves with chalk or in cursive. Kids text.”

      On May 23, the Microsoft Summit will take place at UBC’s Point Grey campus. LEARNstyle CEO DJ Cunningham is slated to be the keynote speaker.

      Tickets for the education-focused event, which includes interactive demonstrations and hands-on workshops featuring Microsoft products, cost $25.

      “It’s a way for teachers to get the professional development they need to bring relevant teaching practices into the classroom right now, because our kids are getting killed,” De Cicco Remu said. “They’re not getting the teaching style that they need for now and for the future. We’re still teaching them the way we did a hundred years ago.”

      According to De Cicco Remu, both teachers and students are already using the latest digital technology to communicate outside of the classroom. She asserted that teachers need to “start rolling with the way these kids communicate”.

      “We need to go to them to understand what they’re doing and to teach them how to direct that in a way that’s going to lead to their success in the future. Right now, we’re in the midst of this very difficult shift, because we don’t get it and we’re trying to understand it. That, for a teacher, can be terrifying.”

      Courtesy Microsoft Canada

      De Cicco Remu argued that good pedagogy must be “layered” with the appropriate technology to be relevant to students. She highlighted Office 365 and OneNote as Microsoft products well-suited for the classroom.

      “Why do you expect a kid to go to school and sit in the same seat everyday with pens and paper?” De Cicco Remu asked. “When they come home, they’ve got all these devices and they’re gaming and they’re doing all this great stuff online, and the expectation at school is to do something radically different. Would you want to do it? I wouldn’t want to do it.”

      Asked what today’s classroom should look like, De Cicco Remu cited that of Zoe Branigan-Pipe, a teacher in Hamilton, Ontario. De Cicco Remu noted Branigan-Pipe teaches in a “hub” featuring 3-D printers, computers, couches, and Lego.

      “She talks about authentic learning places,” De Cicco Remu said. “So classroom—what classroom? Learning is anytime, anywhere. Kids are learning everywhere. As long as they have that device and they have that connectivity to the cloud, they can do their work anywhere. So that’s why the tools become so important.”

      Courtesy Microsoft Canada

      De Cicco Remu pointed out that the role of teachers is changing from “sage on the stage to facilitator to activator”. This kind of teaching and learning requires “open spaces”, she maintained.

      “Our schools are like jails—brick walls, colourless, not very engaging or exciting,” De Cicco Remu said.

      Throwing out pens, paper, and chalkboards—not to mention print textbooks—doesn’t mean that schools should abandon writing all together, according to De Cicco Remu. With a stylus and a tablet, kids can still cognitively benefit from the digitized practice of “inking”, she explained.

      For teachers skeptical about new technology’s place in the classroom, she has a message.

      “Shift or get off the pot,” De Cicco Remu said. “Seriously, it’s not fair to the kids. It’s tough at the outset to understand and learn all these tools, but you’re doing a disservice to our students and these kids’ futures if you don’t. And that’s your job.”


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      May 15, 2015 at 8:20pm

      This woman has no idea what's she's talking about. Has she been in a school lately? Had she read ed research? Had she actually watched or talked with teachers and kids? She doesn't cite any of these things if she has. She just spews exaggeration, speculation, and manipulation. Microsoft is among one of the biggest destroyers of education out there.


      May 15, 2015 at 8:39pm

      To sum it all up:
      Dear Teachers,
      Buy our shit
      Yours truly


      May 15, 2015 at 9:05pm

      What a load of crap. Sure, kids need to learn new technologies relevant to their future. But they also need to learn to write well, to speak well, to think well, to collaborate effectively with peers, and to draw, design, and invent without the medium of a screen. Renu sounds exactly like what she is- a marketing rep trying to bully teachers into buying her products. Tech is trying to co-opt education at a dizzying pace and I hope teachers can filter out all their BS and focus on the human relationships necessary to foster learning. Kids learn when their voices are heard, valued, and pushed appropriately. No technology can replace that.

      Jason K.

      May 15, 2015 at 9:25pm

      Seriously? What a fucking joke! Best math site in existence: Khan Academy. How do your kids use it for complex problems? Pencil and paper? Mine, too.

      "But, but, but, not buying our shit will hurt the children! Think of the children!!"

      Billy the Kid

      May 15, 2015 at 9:59pm

      I agree with the previous comments. You don't play games in the learning environment. It is still about repetition and working hard for success. Technology is not always the answer. Social media is destroying face to face conversations and social interaction. This lady is nothing more than a sales rep for Microsoft!


      May 15, 2015 at 11:07pm

      I wouldn't want my kids' attention span suffering because Microsoft wants some money
      it is disgusting to see anyone under 16 with their face in a phone and the last thing we need is a push to further that stupidity.


      May 16, 2015 at 12:30am

      Certainly we don't want education to be behind the times, and not relevant. Teachers are always challenged to keep pace or become less helpful. Recognizing this does not mean abandoning truly useful longstanding methods of instruction. It is not either/or; it is both.


      May 16, 2015 at 1:39am

      Arrogance unleashed is what I would have titled this article.

      Kelly Barbarich

      May 16, 2015 at 4:21am

      I don't disagree that we need to update things and offer different choices for students to represent their learning. I do think classrooms are outdated and we are always behind in technology. I agree that for many boys especially school is like prison. However, where does she think we are going to get the money to buy all of these things? Is microsoft offering to fill my classroom with these wonderful learning tools? If so I'm game! Put your money where your mouth is microsoft. Furthermore, who and when are the teachers going to be trained properly to use these? Simply saying teachers need to get with it is insulting! We are desperate for change. It's a little more complicated than that.

      Eng teacher

      May 16, 2015 at 4:28am

      What 'great stuff' do our 'kids' do at home on technology? My students play games, watch hours and hours of videos in You Tube. Best lessons I teach use quality writers' work- sometimes that is five hundred years old. It is about the richness of language and its beauty- however teachers choose and have skill in teaching that is entirely individual and unique to them, and their students.